Meet Fellow Willie Zabar

Photo by Mindy Tucker

Willie Zabar is a comedian from New York City. He studied Film and Writing at Wesleyan University where he also started performing sketch and character comedy. It was during this time that he began developing Hymie Wilhelm, an experimental musical character act. He has studied performance and writing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the Annoyance Theatre New York, the Brooklyn Comedy Collective, the Yale University Summer Conservatory for Actors, and New York University. He has been featured at various comedy clubs, colleges, and street performances as well as NYC Sketchfest, the 5th Borough Comedy Festival, the Nantucket Comedy Festival, and the Brooklyn Comedy Festival where in 2018 he performed a 3-hour durational performance as Hymie Wilhelm. He is a co-creator and co-host of the collaborative photoshop video series Poster Perfect.


My LABA project is a comedic solo performance in which German Jewish fascist Hymie Wilhelm recounts a lifetime of misadventure through story and song. It explores Hymie’s childhood in the 1890’s, his experience fighting for the Kaiser in the Great War, his radicalization into ultranationalist ideology, and his life as a struggling artist in an increasingly-hostile interwar Berlin.

LABA is a unique fellowship. What drew you to apply?
Hymie Wilhelm has been an almost entirely improvised act since I started doing it in 2013. I have wanted to put together a completely scripted Hymie performance for some time and I felt that the LABA fellowship might provide me with the structure and deadlines I’d need to make that happen. I was also very drawn to the fact that this fellowship involves the reading and discussion of ancient Jewish texts. Because the Hymie Wilhelm act is essentially historical fiction, I felt researching the same bible stories and Talmudic writings that would have been available to a Jewish person in Hymie’s era would help me flesh out his backstory and worldview.

What is your favorite East Village spot?
Otto’s Shrunken Head.

What is the worst thing that ever made you laugh?
Seeing someone drop their phone into the crack between the train and the platform.